writing technique

On Writing: authors Stanley Fish & Roger Rosenblatt

Take a deep breath: we’re going fathoms down, down . . .

The craft of fiction requires imagination and discipline in equal measure. It is both art and science; its demands on the practitioner gestaltic and quotidian. Gestaltic in that the production of text comprising a unified whole of divers elements such as plot, theme, dialogue, characterization, symbols, motifs, etc. from oneiric visions, fleeting hypnagogic insights, ephemeral reveries, and focused bouts of cogitation requires one distinct set of skills. Quotidian in that the fashioning—sentence after cunningly wrought sentence—of the most apt, evocative, and concretizing of words that will resonate with the reader and allow him or her to enter (insofar as possible) the fictional dream of story requires quite another talent.

It is this latter part of the craft—the quotidian art of the sentence—that authors Stanley Fish and Roger Rosenblatt teach so well. Their reverence, awe, and delight in the sentence qua sentence gladden and uplift this aging author’s heart. I believe you will be charmed as well as you listen to these wizened masters speak.

Note: You may have some difficulty (depending on your computer’s internet service speeds and feeds) with the following link. I assure you any irritation caused by video stutter is well worth fighting through. Two points: (1) Pause the presentation occasionally to allow your system to catch up, and (2) know that the issue—on my computer, anyway—cleared up about halfway through.


CLICK HERE: https://charlierose.com/videos/16610


32 thoughts on “On Writing: authors Stanley Fish & Roger Rosenblatt

  1. Nickie Seidler says:

    Well Carl has been telling me to introduce myself, as we’re co workers sharing an interest to writing, so here goes!
    I’m Nickie Seidler or Nickie Nalley Seidler as most know me which makes me giggle because I only used that name to keep my maiden name alive as my new last name wasn’t fun to sign as my maiden. By anywaysssssss! I’m a young aspiring author who’s published 8 books soon to be 9. I just finished a novella that will be releasing March 31st. I write in the romance genre spreading anywhere from suspense to contemporary. I’ve had my successful DAYS and days I’m scrounging amazons pennies! But I’ve leaned a lot and wrote a lot and it makes ME happy. That’s all that matters to me. I have a ton of support and a great following of readers who keep me going. I’ve done several signings in Chicago, Tennessee and North Carolina and attended many as well as a reader. Signings are my happy place as well getting to meet new authors and especially my readers who connect with my books as much as I do! To see readers travel states to meet you is a feeling I’ll never be able to describe.
    Well I won’t go on about too much, but I’ll love to help support wherever I can and this blog seems very supportive! So hello everyone !

    Liked by 4 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    Welcome, Nickie! Is Carl as much fun in person as he is on here? (Of course he is!) Give us some stories, eh?

    Carl, I like what Stanley Fish is saying. I have watched a bit, and will watch all this weekend. Have you read his book? I may want to get it.

    Roger likes ‘plain writing, restrained writing’. Doesn’t sound like me, does it? But I may buy his book also.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Perry Palin says:

    I’m as much a fan of the noun and the sentence as the next guy, but I kept waiting for Rosenblatt and Fish talk about a connection to the reader, and the closest thing I heard was indirect, and pushed into the background.

    I’ve never read anything by either of these white haired old men. I suspect they are excellent writers, readers, and teachers. They were able to appreciate old dead poets for the impact their lines had on THEM, but I didn’t hear them say we should care about the people in our own readerships.

    Then in her introduction to us Nickie wrote “(s)ignings are my happy place as well getting to meet new authors and especially my readers who connect with my books as much as I do!” Nickie did what i wanted the dusty old professors to do, which was to acknowledge the reader.

    Why is that the right noun? What makes that sentence so powerful? The impact on the reader makes them right and powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    The connection to the reader comes after you have a product. First comes craft. My primary pleasure is the writing, and I write selfishly, to get my vision onto a page intact. Do I think of readers when I write? I do not. (Obviously.)

    Do I hope for good feedback? Sure. But I don’t worry about it. Will I one day regret my choices? I don’t think so.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well, Nickie, this is pretty much the place we gather to critique, debate, support, challenge, affirm, inspire and otherwise interact/collide with one another. Curtis is the Big Wheel; GD is pretty much his 2nd Lt. I’m sure one or the other (or both) will reach out to you soon and explain how to schedule a blog post here. (Basically, you write it but don’t publish it. Curtis will publish your blog post either Monday or Thursday, allowing those blog posts ahead of you to run first.)

      To all the large hearts, big brains and accomplished talents gathered here: Thank you so much for giving Nickie a warm welcome!

      Curtis: British author, editor, multi-millionaire. Renowned Epicurean and art afficionado.
      GD: Underground science-fiction writer, survivalist & gunsmith. Satirist & hand-to-hand combat expert.
      Atthys: Accomplished spec-fic novelist, venerated critic and all-around good guy. Owns a time machine and “guaranteed success” plot-generating gnome.
      Mimi: Bright sun of eccentric energy, inexhaustible source of all things Sly! (You’ll learn.)
      Perry: Kind, Christ-like figure of gentle wit & sober musings who runs a ranch stocked w/ feral sparrows, singing rhinos & Performance Art fish. (Somehow it all works.)
      Sue & Kris: Brilliant and funny talents who have recently joined us. Mysterious & elusive.
      Doc Tom: International man of action & adventure; writer of hard sci-fi that sparkles with wit & brilliance

      Liked by 6 people

      • GD Deckard says:

        Hmmm. I see Carl modestly left hisself off the DRAMATIS PERSONAE. But I think we’ve known him long enough to say (& please, anyone else, add to this)

        Carl E. Reed: Gonzo writer possessed February 20, 2005 by the jealous spirit of Hunter S. Thompson. Carl writes at his best in brief but exciting moments tumbling down Niagra Falls in a barrel.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Welcome, Nickie! We’d be very pleased to hear of your experience about author signings – or anything else about the weird occupation of writing. Any time you feel ready, you can get in touch via the contact page. I look forward to it!
    Thanks for that link, Carl. Lots of nice stuff in there. Though I still want to know how to write a book full of the best sentences ever…

    Liked by 3 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    Nickie, I am impressed! You have many books published, many many great reviews, lots of fans. Tell us, step by step, how you accomplished all this. At the start, did you list and wait to be discovered, or were there concrete steps you took? This is fascinating! We want to know your secrets!

    When I google your name, I find links to an astonishing number of individual blogs. I’d say you have a genius for marketing. I am going to go back and take the names of all those blogs and visit every one of them. How did you first connect with all those folks? Or did they find you, through Goodreads, etc.? Yes, you write in a popular genre, but your gobs of fans are avid about your stories.

    We are very very pleased to make your acquaintance.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Greetings, Nickie. Thanks for joining us. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences, both as a writer and — ugh — a marketer.

    Carl. Thanks for posting this fascinating video. Sorry for not dhiming in sooner, but I was cleaning the time machine. I always think one of my future selfs is going to do it, but when I get to the future, I find they are all loafing about not doing much of anything. It’s hard finding good selfs these days.

    As far at the interview went, I found it both inspiring and a little disheartening, since I am pretty deep in the doldrums these days. I love a good story, but my greatest source of joy as a reader always comes down to great sentences, great phrases, perfect words. The ultimate accomplishment is to write something so perfect and yet so unexpected that the reader experiences a physical sensation akin to opening a door on an unknown world. The best sentences can do this, even if their subject matter is, ostensibly, mundane. Even if hardly anything is happening in the plot. That’s one of the reasons I love Nabokov so much. He’s a world builder because his sentences are worlds.

    Liked by 3 people

      Re: Nabokov: indeed! A sterling example of a consummate prose artist at work. (Others: Pat Conroy, Martin Amis, John Updike. Personal faves of mine.)

      Re: “Sorry for not chiming in sooner, but I was cleaning the time machine. I always think one of my future selfs is going to do it, but when I get to the future, I find they are all loafing about not doing much of anything. It’s hard finding good selfs these days.”

      ROFL! Also: You’ve given me a pretty good idea for a comic sci-fi tale, there . . .

      PS. I know you’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy stuff of late. (Likewise, you know my story. No easy road this, these past few years of psychic, physical & material decimation, eh?)

      What I want to say is: Knowing that you are there, somewhere out in the world–writing, thinking, interacting with others, simply being–lifts my heart and lightens my own burdens. Please never doubt the impact you have on others–a decent, empathetic, intelligent and wise person somehow doing the good work of good writing in the nooks and crannies of life.

      Why do I say this? Not to embarrass you. Certainly not to embarrass me. I say this because I think most artists denigrate their own achievements in the face of near universal indifference by an oftentimes ornery, vulgar (in the sense of common: undistinguished; mediocre; popular-for-all-the-wrong-reasons), perversely pig-headed, willfully misreading public. Or in the face of personal crises that can take an awful toll of energy and inspiration. The heroic journey for the writer is the act of continuing to write, howsoever slowly. Painfully. Wracked by doubt and despair or simple distraction. One page, one paragraph, but one sentence a day? So be it. Forge on. Never quit. A single word; the right word, at the right time, for the right reason. . . .

      Confession: I’m not aiming this solely at you (as you well know or suspect, though I mean every word of it) but to all others of similar character and discernment. By which I mean all those who write, critique and engage in the lost art of conversation with skill and integrity. By the mere fact of existing (and interacting with others so that we know you’re here) you displace evil in the world. Never doubt this. Never. Or the world and the cosmos entire will be drowned in the vacuous ravings of the ignorant, the willfully stupid and the criminally insane.

      Liked by 4 people

      • GD Deckard says:

        Echoing Carl, I find that time spent writing focuses me on things I enjoy thinking about. So does reading here what other writers post. There is a kinship all writers share and Carl, perhaps, expresses it best. “The heroic journey for the writer is the act of continuing to write….”

        Liked by 1 person

      • atthysgage says:

        I appreciate your comments and your kindness, Carl. I don’t think I’ll ever quit writing, though there are days (and weeks) where I seriously wonder.

        “Please never doubt the impact you have on others–a decent, empathetic, intelligent and wise person somehow doing the good work of good writing in the nooks and crannies of life.”

        I don’t, and I could say the same thing right back to you. (Also, I’m looking forward to reading you comic/sci fi/time travel tale. Glad to have set the wheels turning.)

        Liked by 2 people

  8. mimispeike says:

    I am talking to Kris on Facebook. He has written a lengthy post explaining that his lack of a robust participation here is due to a severe medical problem, the resulting lack of energy, and many doctor visits. But he shows a snippet of what he plans for his blog-post, and it will be really a valuable contribution.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nichole Seidler says:

    I’d be more than happy to write a blog post about my experience thus far. I actually wish there was a way to take some things OFF google but I haven’t figured out HOW. I could explain later in a personal post, but some things I did early on that I wasn’t aware of weren’t necessarily right, and now its on the internet forever. BUT anyways, besides that, I have so much to say! It take a few years to get where I am today and it was definetely hard work. I will get to a blog post hopefully by the end of the week, I have a two year old, so working on this computer can be a task!

    What genre’s do you all write in? Facebook, is key. If you’re not on there, and wish to promote, it’s the best thing you can have for promoting. I have a business page, and personal page. When I say business, I have a facebook “like” page, but I feel those are pretty much a ghost town these days as the facebook algorithyms made it pretty impossible to get anybody to see our posts on those. So I created a normal facebook page, which your free to add me on Nickie Nalley Seidler, where that is all book related people, bloggers, authors, and readers combined. That has been the best way for me to advertise my books, and talk with readers and bloggers. But I will tell you this, the market has defintely saturated in the last two years compared to what it was to write and publish before then. SO many more indie authors popped up, and now it’s very hard to be seen and sell the amount we used to! But i’ll go into that on my blog post as well!

    I’ll also add in on my blog experience as well. I hope I don’t jump all over too much when I write, I have what we call a scattered brain and tend to type what I think and then i’m all over the place sometimes haha. If you all have a facebook, we could easily add a group of everyone in here to be able to chat! Let me know if anyone’s interested! I can create a chat for the the writer coop!

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      A Facebook chat for the Writers Co-op?
      That would give us a place to discuss things. Right now, we have to hijack a thread to talk about things not related to the current blog. I’m interested, and thank you for the offer!

      Should we set it up so that other writers could join the discussions?


  10. Nickie Seidler says:

    GD–all you have to do is create a group, name it, set the privacy standards for it, public, closed, secret, I recommend secret. Then add any members from here that are on Facebook or whomever you want. I’d keep it author based. If you’d like I could set it up. Please friend me and message me as well so I know who you are I get several requests and no offense I don’t always add men as being in the romance genre you can imagine the type of requests I may get….lol…..

    just add me here! https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007533126805&tsid=0.026906033452796407&source=typeahead

    Liked by 1 person

    • GD Deckard says:

      Don’t worry about me, Nickie 🙂 The last time I hit on a woman online, she moved in with me. That was over 20 years ago and we’re still happy with her decision.


  11. mimispeike says:

    Both Roger and Stanley say things that I identify with, but I feel more drawn to Stanley. Here, with no attributions, what especially delighted me:

    Sentences that knock your socks off
    Investigate life on your own terms
    The pleasure of figuring things out
    I rarely know what I’m thinking before I start to write

    Invention over imagination, I don’t know what that means. Maybe this: invention would seem to have a footing in reality, even a fantasy reality. I think it has to make some kind of sense. Imagination can be fluff. Can that be it? I have to get those books.

    Liked by 3 people

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